It’s a challenge many people face. They start going to the gym and building muscle, but that pesky belly just won’t go away.
The good news is there are ways you can lose belly fat without losing muscle. It takes discipline and consistent effort but it is possible. Diet plays a big role, but so too does exercise. The combination of these efforts is a great way to get rid of that gut.
In the rest of this article, I will share a number of different strategies you can use to get rid of your gut but keep the muscles you’ve worked so hard to gain.
7 Ways to Lose Belly Fat Without Losing Muscle
There’s no magic formula to losing belly fat and maintaining muscle. However, you can achieve that goal by focusing on your diet, your exercise plan, and your pre-and post-workout routines. Below are seven strategies you can use to get rid of that belly:
- Eat lean protein.
- Participate in regular moderate cardio exercise.
- Continue strength training.
- Eat at a moderate calorie deficit.
- Consider using supplements.
- Take active rest days.
- Use a pre-and post-workout routine.
In the rest of this article, I will detail each of these strategies and illustrate how you can use them to achieve your goal.
Eat lean protein.
Whether you’re building muscle or maintaining the muscle you have, your plan should start with protein. When you lift weights, your muscles tear very slightly. Don’t be alarmed. Those micro-tears are a good thing.
After your workout, your body recovers, and those torn muscles regrow. In fact, they may regrow to an extent that your body builds new muscle tissue.
Protein helps with this process. The amino acids in protein, specifically the amino acid leucine, are responsible for the anabolic muscle growth process. Simply put, the more protein you eat in conjunction with a weight-training program, the more muscle you will add.
Of course, you can’t survive on protein alone. Your body also needs carbohydrates and yes, even fat, to provide energy. A balanced diet that skews slightly heavy on protein is a good approach for maintaining muscle mass.
According to a recent study, the ideal target for protein in a diet with the goal of growing muscle mass is 0.8 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. For example, a 200-pound person would need to eat 160 grams of protein each day to build lean mass.
That’s a lot of chicken, beef, and seafood, so you may find it difficult to hit your protein goals. A protein supplement can be an efficient way to add protein to your diet. Many supplements offer 40-50 grams per serving. One supplement a day can take care of a significant part of your protein goal, making it easier to get the rest from a normal diet.
Participate in regular moderate cardio exercise.
In order to burn fat, you will ultimately need to burn calories. There are two ways to do that: eat less and exercise more. As we just established, you can’t severely cut your calorie intake because you’ll need protein to maintain and grow your muscle mass.
That means you’ll need cardio exercise to burn calories. Some people believe they shouldn’t participate in cardio when building muscle, but that assumption is usually a mistake. Moderate cardio exercise is a great way to burn fat while maintaining muscle.
An ideal target is 150-180 minutes per week of moderate cardio exercise. For example, you could take a light jog for 30 minutes each night. Or you could do a one-hour aerobic exercise three days a week.
Don’t overdo it on cardio though. You don’t want to burn too many calories and you want to leave room in your schedule for strength training to keep building muscle.
Continue strength training.
Speaking of strength training, keep it up! Just because you’re trying to lose belly fat doesn’t mean you should stop lifting weights. In fact, lifting is more important than ever. As you burn fat, your body can replace that mass with newly-built muscle.
One effective strategy is to lift weights three days per week targeting different muscle groups in each session. You can lift weights on alternate days and then use the days when you’re not lifting to engage in the moderate cardio you’ll need to burn calories.
This is effective because you give yourself off days for your muscles to recover. Remember, when you lift weights you actually create very small tears in your muscles. On your off days, the muscles use amino acids to regrow new muscle mass. And, if you’re sticking to your high-protein diet, you’ll have plenty of amino acids to boost muscle growth.
You also may want to include abdominal exercises in a couple of those strength training days. Those exercises will begin to grow muscle mass in your abdominal area. As you burn your belly fat, your new abdominal muscles will start becoming more visible. You’ll have a six-pack in no time!
Eat at a moderate calorie deficit.
We’ve established that you will need to eat protein to build and maintain muscle mass. However, your ultimate goal is to burn fat. Your body burns fat when it’s not getting enough energy from your diet. If you have a deficit in your diet, your body burns stored fat and converts it into energy. That’s what you want to happen to get rid of your belly.
Since you don’t want to cut back on protein intake, you’ll need to reduce either your fat or carbohydrate intake. There are multiple calculators online that can help you determine the ideal mix of protein, carbs, and fat.
These calculators can also help you determine your ideal calorie intake. Ideally, you want to eat slightly fewer calories than needed. That will force your body to burn stored fat to use for fuel. You may feel hungry as you start this program. That’s a good thing. It means your body is looking for more energy and will start burning fat.
Consider using supplements.
As we’ve discussed, protein supplements are a great way to get more protein and amino acids into your diet. Many protein supplements come in the form of powders. You simply put them in a cup with water, shake it up, and drink it like a shake. Within just minutes you can get an extra 25-50 grams of protein.
Another supplement to consider is fish oil. Fish oil usually comes in the form of tablets and is readily available at grocery stores, pharmacies, and anywhere else that sells vitamins. Fish oil tablets are rich in amino acids. Again, these can give you an even more significant boost in muscle repair and production.
CBD is another supplement to think about. CBD comes from the hemp plant. However, it doesn’t have THC in it, so it doesn’t come with any of the psychoactive elements that come from marijuana. Some studies show that CBD helps with appetite control and with weight loss. You can usually buy CBD in tablet form.
Perhaps the best two supplements are all-natural and free. One is sleep. A full night of sleep can give your body the rest it needs for muscle recovery. It’s a time when your body produces amino acids to aid in muscle growth. It’s also helpful in maintaining a strong metabolism so your body will burn fat.
The other all-natural supplement that can be effective is water. Hydration is important for your health for a wide range of reasons. But it’s critical for muscle growth and fat-burning. When you’re dehydrated, your body doesn’t create amino acids and your metabolism slows. This is the opposite of what you want. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
Take active rest days.
We’ve discussed why rest days are important. It gives your body time to recover and for your muscles to repair themselves and regrow. It may be tempting to go to the gym every day, but it’s critical to take days off.
But on your days off, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. It’s good to stay active and keep your heart rate up and your metabolism active. The key is to stay active without pushing yourself or straining your muscles.
There are many things you can do on active rest days. For example, you could go for a light walk or hike. You could go on a bike ride. You could do some housework or yardwork. You could play in a basketball game or some other activity. You could go dancing.
The key is to achieve some level of movement without putting your muscles under additional stress. Break a light sweat at some point during your active rest day and you’ll be good to go.
Use a pre-and post-workout routine.
Going to the gym is important, but so is what you do before and after the gym. The biggest risk to achieving your goal is an injury that prevents you from working out. That’s why a robust stretching and warmup routine is so important. Make sure you stretch before every workout, with a special focus on the muscle group you’ll be working.
It’s also helpful to get your heart rate up before you start lifting. Jump on a treadmill or an elliptical for 10 minutes or so before you lift and go with just enough intensity to break a light sweat. That will get your heart rate up so you burn more calories while lifting.
You also may want to drink a healthy energy drink before your workout. This will get you moving faster and will help with your heart rate, metabolism, and calorie burn. You can find these drinks at most nutrition stores.
After your workout, do another light stretch to prevent injury. This is also a great time to consume your protein supplement. Get the amino acids in your body immediately after your workout so they can get to work repairing and growing your muscles.
It is possible to lose belly fat without losing muscle, but it takes discipline and consistent effort. There’s no easy solution that works, but rather it’s a combination between exercise, diet, and supplements.
The good news is that it is achievable. Get started today with your strength training and cardio routines, along with a well-balanced diet. Be sure to use health supplements and get plenty of sleep and water. If you do those things, you’ll have a flat belly and muscular body in no time at all.